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Llívia: A Curious Spanish Enclave in France

There is a little part of Spain that is completely surrounded by France. The town of Llívia and its 1,600 or so residents are Spanish, yet they are inside France, which gives them a certain independence and the attitude that comes with it. That strange geography came about more than 300 years ago because of how the exact words of a border agreement was defined.

Llívia was an important Roman settlement and the ancient capital of Cerdanya up until the early Middle Ages. In 1659, after more than two decades of war, France and Spain reached a peace agreement called the Treaty of the Pyrenees, according to the terms of which all Spanish “villages” north of the Pyrenees were to be handed over to France. But Spain held on to Llívia, pointing out a technicality that Llívia was a town and not a village, and thus cheated France out of it. The surrounding villages became part of the French kingdom, but Llívia stayed in Spain and became an enclave of France. The five-square-mile municipality is now connected to the rest of Spain by a narrow, two-lane “neutral” road, the N-154, which is administered by both France and Spain with a rotation of six months each.

There are benefits to being separated from Spain, such as in the 2017 Catalonian referendum, when Spanish authorities disrupted the voting in most of Catalonia, but could not reach Llívia. But there are difficulties, too, including dealing with the bureaucracy of two nations. Read about Llívia at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Flickr user ANSELM PALLÀS)


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